Thursday, 24 June 2010

The World needs more Death cats

I've haven't seen anything as gloriously chaotic as death cat for a long while.

Courtesy of Tom Francis of PC Gamer :
People make maps in Team Fortress 2 specifically for grinding achievements. Bleak, joyless rooms of endlessly spawning bots and resupply crates, where people don’t play the game, they game it. But in one of these, achievement_all_v4, the author’s added a surprise. A violent, horrific, hilarious surprise of biblical proportions

Regardless of the intent it been seized upon as a hugely entertaining way of dealing with a practice that much of the TF2 community disproves of. Why make a angry forum post when you can unleash a cat with laser beam eyes.

Just watching it makes me wonder if admin's & dev's couldn't use more interactive and visible ways of dealing with unintended player behaviour.

Of course Valve & TF2 aren't strangers to this sort of thing. When valve decided to crack down on idling bots to farm achievements introduced the infamous “cheaters lament” a bright halo which came with the greeting:
Congratulations! Your Honesty has been rewarded with a new hat! (Some other players were less scrupulous, and have been less fortunate)
Although Valve stated:
Only about 4.5% of the players in TF2's community will be affected by this cleansing process
As often however the part of the community most likely to go to any lengths to obtain turned out to be one of the most vocal, and a large amount of forum controversy followed.
High visibility responses are risky. Sure the majority of players love seeing justice being done, but of course publicly humiliating any paying/future customer isn't exactly good business.
Even when ban's are delivered by a nothing more dramatic then a email the company has to consider the offenders reaction and even worse the possibility of false positives with whatever detection method they use.

For Valve it appears often that TF2 main value is not the revenue from its sales alone but the ability of valve now it has recouped the games development cost to use it as a loss leader to lure people to it's steam content delivery system, so maintaining a good community is vital.

However there is one sort of game which has a even more vested interested in a stable community and that's MMO's their deep communities and vast gameworlds seem ideal targets for 'in engine' customer service.

Games Master are essentially the police of these virtual worlds and just as in the real world Justice has to bee seen to be done. In Game spam is probably the equivalent to real world concept of Signal Crime
it makes players feel less comfortable in the games environments and its pervasive nature can lead to the assumption that if such blatant rule breaking is taking place on a large scale then more overt crimes must also be taking place and not being dealt with.

Arena Nets's Guild War's is one of the few well publicised uses of a high visibility in game banning method. Perhaps the games emphasis on the competitive nature of its player vs player combat tipped the scales regarding the calculations of the effect such action would take, but whatever the reason in may of this year MMO news site Massively reported that the games God of Death could be seen wandering the game world swing his scythe felling bot after bot in a very visible display of developer power.

Arena Net justified it saying:
We know that the visibility of our actions is important to the Guild Wars community
To a varying degree, cheaters hurt other players by inflating the economy, devaluing hard-earned accomplishments, or annoying everyone with RMT chat spam to sell gold gained through botting, but cheating in PvP is especially odious because it so directly affects the play experience of others

Back when games (& I) were young, customer support was some surly call centre worker reading from a printed off FAQ sheet prepared by the developers and patched after were something u put on a ripped trouser leg. Nowadays zero day patches are the norm rather than the exception, and companies spend big money creating & supporting player communities post release. There is such huge potential to deal with post release issues in ways which turn a problems into opportunities. It doesn't have to be as dramatic as the laser cat or a god of death smiting player. Just some 'in world' indication of what's going on. Blizzard have already shown that through 'phasing' they can deliver different experiences to different people in the same game location, so the technologies there and there is no reason they couldn't do this.

I can personally picture in WoW a mini GM buzzing round any player he's talking to like a tiny blue guardian angel, but I'm sure lots of other people have idea about ways that customer service could be integrated smoother into game worlds.

Final Note: I came perilously close to making a extremely bad Pun & calling this post: Wow! CATaclysm.

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